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Then and Now: Women in the Field of Accounting

by | Mar 1, 2023 | #DiversityandInclusion

Today is the beginning of Women’s History Month 2023. Women have a tremendous impact in the field of accounting, as they currently represent 62% of professionals in the industry. This figure is the culmination of 124 years of progress, determination, and achievement since the first woman to ever become a certified public accountant in 1899. Today, Bowman would like to highlight some achievements of women in our industry today, as well as the trailblazers that made today possible.

Christine Ross & Other Notable CPA’s in History

Christine Ross was born in Canada and moved to the United States right before the turn of the 20th century. Living in New York City, she took the CPA exam in the summer of 1898. She scored extremely high, which was more than enough to pass the exam. However, she initially faced discrimination from the state regents as they intentionally delayed her certification for nearly two years. Despite the setback, she finally received her certification in December of 1899. She is credited as the first woman to earn the CPA designation. After enduring this process, she used her new certification to provide services to many women owned businesses and organizations.

A wave of progress followed the decades after Ross’ achievement. Ellen Libby Eastman, from Maine, was the first woman to establish her own public accounting practice after receiving her CPA license in 1918. Years later in 1943, Mary T. Washington became the first African American woman to be a licensed CPA after completing her degree from Northwestern University & an apprenticeship under Arthur J. Wilson (the first African American CPA in Illinois). The number of women in accounting had been growing throughout this time, but by 1946 the number of women CPAs had tripled to 360.

I have chilled my feet and frozen my nose for the sake of success in a job which I love. I have been snowbound in railroad stations and have been stranded five miles from a garage with both rear tires of my car flat. I have ridden into and out of open culvert ditches with the workmen shouting warnings to me. And always one must keep the appointment; “how” is not the client’s concern.

– Ellen Libby Eastman in a 1929 article for The Certified Public Accountant, describing the hardships faced in her profession. This attitude demonstrates the commitment that we strive to achieve.

Women Leaving an Impact Today

Women are making a difference every day in our own firm as well as the surrounding area. Most recently, one of our commercial department Partners Michelle Gasiorowski, CPA, won an Ovation Award in June 2022 for her impact to the region as well as a listing in South Jersey Biz‘ “Women to Watch” 2022 Issue. Another Partner of the Firm, Nina Sorelle, CPA, CFE, CGMA, has received a certificate of educational excellence in governmental accounting and auditing from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Several other woman partners at Bowman have been recognized for their impact to the accounting profession and the clients they serve. Looking at the rest of the region, Kathleen F. Powers, CPA, CGMA, PSA, currently serves as President of the New Jersey Society of Public Accountants. The NJCPA has elected several women as past Presidents, and provides great resources for women in accounting here, such as informative articles & podcasts and the Women’s Leadership Forum. We are very fortunate for the NJCPA’s partnership with Bowman & Company LLP to co-sponsor a scholarship in remembrance of our former partner Lisa Donahue, whose legacy as an amazing woman & professional is still impacting the lives of young people today. These are just a few examples of achievement at Bowman as well as the thousands of women in our service area. Bowman & Company LLP is extremely proud of all the women that make our firm successful, and we value the dedication they provide to our clients on a daily basis.


Sources & Further Reading

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